Rugby

Here Is The XV Joe Schmidt Needs To Pick To Get Ireland Playing Exciting Rugby Again

Here Is The XV Joe Schmidt Needs To Pick To Get Ireland Playing Exciting Rugby Again

Three games into the Six Nations and for the first time since Italy were added in 2000, Ireland don't have a single win yet. The top heavy nature of the fixture list meant that bad results could easily snowball and it has proved to be the case, as Ireland have struggled to one draw and two defeats against Wales, France and England.

At their best during Joe Schmidt's tenure, Ireland have been ultra-accurate and converted chances into points efficiently. Now the opposite is true. The French and English defeats were littered with instances where Irish players had great chances to score but couldn't convert the opportunities.

Ireland have struggled in attack and fans are getting fed up at watching the team put up paltry scores every game. 13 points against Wales. 9 against France. 10 against England.

Those numbers should make the Irish squad cringe with embarrassment. Luckily, they now host Italy and Scotland in their final two games. With the prospect of a third straight Six Nations championship gone, now is the time to infuse the team with an attacking thrust.

Here is the XV that we would like to see when Ireland play Italy at the Aviva in two weeks time.

15. Jared Payne

Rob Kearney is probably the best fullback under the high ball in the world but there is so much more to the position than that and the Leinster 15 just doesn't bring anything else to the table. He is a magnet for the first defender and it has been a long time since he posed a legitamate attacking threat.

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Payne has his detractors but he attacks the line at fullback in an incisive way and is a much sharper offensive threat coming from that area than he is at outside centre.

14. Craig Gilroy

I've heard a few people say that Gilroy isn't a 'Joe Schmidt wing' because he isn't as defensively sound or as solid under the high ball as some of his rivals. Does making searing breaks, beating defenders and finishing off great moves not count for anything any more?

Gilroy is the form wing in the country and deserves his chance. Andrew Trimble deserved to be picked at the beginning of the campaign but can you remember a single attacking moment that he has contributed to so far?

I didn't think so.

13. Garry Ringrose

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Stuart McCloskey had a solid debut and grew into the 12 jersey as the game progressed yesterday - this choice isn't an indictment of his performance. But let's be honest - Italy is a soft touch and it makes sense to blood Ringrose now rather than against South Africa in the summer or against Australia or New Zealand in the autumn.

12. Robbie Henshaw

At this stage of his career we are still discovering exactly what Henshaw's best position is but he has performed best at number 12 thus far. Would be interesting to see how he combines with Ringrose before they link up at provincial level.

11. Simon Zebo

Zebo can be flaky but the cut and thrust he provides is worth including. The versatile attacker made more of an attacking impact in 95 minutes than all of the other back three players combined.

10. Johnny Sexton

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Despite having to deal with Eddie Jones' nonsense during the week, Sexton stood up and delivered a strong performance at Twickenham. He takes a battering every time he pulls on the green jersey but he is still capable of driving an Irish performance with his attacking brilliance.

9. Conor Murray

You have to credit Murray's close-range sniping ability while lamenting the fact that Ireland have been solely reliant on his two-yard tries in this Six Nations.

1.  Jack McGrath

Each time Cian Healy comes off the bench, Jack McGrath's grip on the number one jersey grows tighter. Healy is a shadow of the explosive player he was at his peak while McGrath has continued to develop.

2. Sean Cronin

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If we are going to pick a hooker with a shaky control of the lineout, can we at least opt for one who can run the 100m in about ten seconds? Rory Best has gone into himself since becoming captain. He hasn't been able to influence referees like his predecessors, his darts at the lineout have been wayward and his ball carrying isn't making the same impact.

Cronin must have done something to piss of Schmidt behind the scenes, because his omission from the 22 remains a mystery.

3. Mike Ross

Ross' return saw the scrum steady significantly while he even managed to execute a successful offload. Now that is rare!

4. Donnacha Ryan

The controlled aggression was back in Ryan's game yesterday - his double tackle with Jack McGrath forced a key turnover in the Irish 22 in the first half. When the Munster second row delivers that sort of performance he is a valuable asset in the team.

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5. Ultan Dillane

Devin Toner is a good junior partner, but his lack of dynamism is extremely pronounced when he doesn't have Paul O'Connell or Iain Henderson beside him to carry the load. Ultan Dillane's performance against England was the best cameo since Tom Cruise in Tropic Thunder.

With so many big ball carriers missing, the Kerry Connacht-man needs to be in the starting team when Ireland play next.

6. CJ Stander

Stander hasn't reached the heights of his Ireland debut in the subsequent games but with the absence of Peter O'Mahony and Sean O'Brien the team badly needs a back row capable of getting over the gain-line.

7. Josh van der Flier

Like McCloskey, van der Flier became more prominent the longer his international debut went on. He probably didn't have the desired impact on the ground but he tackled tigerishly and showed his linking ability when combining with Ultan Dillane during a second half break. He deserves another chance to show what he can do.

8. Jamie Heaslip

Will that team be picked? Probably not. But after three games without a win - four including the loss to Argentina at the World Cup - it is time to freshen up the team with stronger attacking options.

Read: Eddie Jones Should Be Ashamed Of His Embarrassing Comment About Johnny Sexton's Parents

Read: The English Media Reaction To Ireland's Defeat At Twickenham

Will Slattery

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